One reader asked:

If the Navy Broadway Complex site was given to the Navy by the citizens of San Diego – for military purposes only – in the 1920s, how can the Navy now be considering entering into a 99 year lease of the property to a private developer for commercial purposes?

Good question. You’re correct that the citizens agreed to give the site to the Navy for military purposes only. That caveat is even included in the deed document that transferred control of the site from the city to the Navy. This question came up in the early 1990s when the Navy was considering allowing non-military redevelopment of the property. In order to clarify its title, the Navy took the issue to a San Diego federal court, where its title to the property for non-military purposes was challenged by the California State Lands Commission.

On Dec. 7, 1992, in a rather convoluted developer friendly decision, federal court judge Williams Enright gave the Navy clear title to the property for any use. While noting that the deed to the property clearly stated that the Navy’s use of the property was limited to military purposes only, he went on to say that because there was no clear reversion language in the deed, saying that if the Navy ever wanted to use the property for non-military purposes, it would have to be turned back to the city, that language no longer applied to the site.

Apparently the State Lands Commission legal staff didn’t appeal this curious decision, perhaps because by that time it had become clear that the Navy did not plan to move on redevelopment of the site anytime soon.


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